Combatting Cheating

Friday, August 23, 2013
By dreeves

Bart Simpson cheating on a test

The second most puzzling thing about Beeminder, for those who don’t use it, is why people don’t lie to avoid paying us. Here’s why!

  1. Beeminder is foremost a Quantified Self tool, so it feels really wrong and counterproductive to falsify your data. People take a lot of pride in their graphs since it’s a meaningful visualization of their progress, and they’d rather pay the occasional penalty than mess that up.
  2. When possible, they use an automatic data source, like connecting a Fitbit to Beeminder, or RunKeeper, or a Withings scale. (We list the automatic data sources on the front page of beeminder.com.)
  3. If you link to your graph on your blog or at least send the URL out to friends by email then falsifying your data is like lying to your friends. (Ideally make the data public too — by default the graph is public but the data private.)
  4. We try to encourage people to think of non-weaselliness as part of their identity as a Beeminder user. Like with this excerpt from our FAQ:

What makes Beeminder users so honest? Self-selection! If you were the type who would falsify your data to weasel out of paying what you pledged on your yellow brick road then you would’ve rolled your eyes and walked away several paragraphs ago.

Our new best friend, BJ Terry, recently added a few more items to this list for us, at the end of his post about how Beeminder is the most powerful productivity tool ever.

  1. Recognize the value Beeminder provides. At the time you fail your goal you will have been forced (by Beeminder) to study for several weeks or months, more than you ever would have without it, so they’ve probably earned their money by that time.
  2. Recognize the power of commitment contracts and realize that you want them to continue to have that power. If you cheat on a commitment contract it’s much harder to use them in the future.
  3. Read more about the founders of Beeminder. … If you can put a face to the name it may make it psychologically harder to deprive them of money that they have rightfully earned.

His first is a point we’ve made before but it sounds much better coming from someone we don’t know. [1] His second point is so baked into our way of thinking that it hadn’t occurred to us to articulate it. And the last one is just for the aw shucks factor.

UPDATE: See also weasel-proofing and our Supporters feature.


 

Footnotes

[1] BJ Terry is our new best friend because of the article he wrote. Not the other way around, honest.


 

Thanks to the CFAR alumni list for a brilliant discussion that led to this post.

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  • somervta

    +n for pint 6. I had a *huge* problem with this when I was young, to the point where promises I made for myself had literally no value. Besides being one of the reasons I haven’t lied to beeminder, beeminder is the reason I can now do it – as well as it’s many other bonuses, it provides me with a reframing that I can use to avoid this problem (actually several reframings for different levels of danger/conscious attention, but that’s a separate thing.)